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Dallas Mavericks Cameo Contest: Dirk in “Like Mike” vs. Luka in “Hustle”

Which Dallas Mavericks legend had the better cameo in a basketball movie? Let’s examine Dirk Nowitzki in “Like Mike” and Luka Doncic in “Hustle.”

2022 NBA Playoffs - Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

If there’s one thing we’re known for on Mavs Moneyball, it’s detailed, intelligent, philosophical movie reviews. So let’s keep that going. Today I’m going to be looking at Dirk Nowitzki’s cameo in “Like Mike” and Luka Doncic’s cameo in “Hustle.” Let’s decide who was better in their respect Oscar-worthy role.

There are a few categories we’ll look at, and the winner of each category will earn a certain amount of points. Those points will be decided by me and there will be no real reason why a certain category is worth more points than the other. It’s just a gut feeling I’m going to go with as I write this. Here are the categories:

  • Which movie was better? 5 points
  • Most memorable quote: 10 points
  • Most surprising appearance: 5 points
  • Who do I want to see more of? 5 points
  • Who acted better? 20 points
  • Twitter poll results: 15 points

Which movie was better?

There are two ways to look at this question. Which movie is cinematically better? And which movie is more legendary?

The answer to the first question is “Hustle.” It’s a really well-made movie with some incredible acting and directing. Adam Sandler is awesome. Juancho Hernangomez is mesmerizing. The script is perfect. It has everything an objectively good movie needs.

However, “Hustle” doesn’t have that indescribable legendary aspect. That’s not its fault. It’s just too new. “Like Mike” is one of the most important pieces of cinema for ‘90s babies and for hoops heads alike. It’s a completely absurd concept that hit on all notes it intended. It gave kids a glimpse at what life could be like if they found magic shoes and hopped into the NBA at 13 years old.

Lil Bow Wow delivered an unforgettable performance as Calvin Cambridge. Morris Chestnut was awe-inspiring as Tracy “T-Time” Reynolds. Jesse Plemons was sensational as Ox.

The legacy of “Like Mike” will live on forever. People still buy Calvin Cambridge jerseys. Maybe in 20 years, “Hustle” will have a similar legacy, but for now, “Like Mike” wins this category in a landslide.

Winner: “Like Mike” (and subsequently Dirk Nowitzki)

Most memorable quote

If you’re reading this, it probably means you’ve seen both movies, which means you know who’s going to win this one. Let’s not even waste time with Luka Doncic’s quote (we’ll get to that later). The winner here is Dirk Nowitzki by knockout.

Calvin Cambridge meets three Dallas Mavericks players in the tunnels of an NBA arena: Steve Nash, Michael Finley, and Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk leads the charge and asks Cambridge for his autograph. He clarifies by saying it’s actually for his niece. When Cambridge asks what his niece's name is, Dirk responds, “Uh, it’s um... Dirk.”

Some people say modern cinema has never been the same since that quote. I am “some people.”

Winner: Dirk Nowitzki

Most surprising appearance

When Dirk showed up in “Like Mike,” it felt obvious to me as a child. They had already shown a ton of NBA superstars, so why wouldn’t Dirk be involved? His appearance didn’t surprise me at all.

When Luka Doncic showed up in “Hustle,” I was actually taken aback. I was watching the movie on my laptop, and I jumped off my chair. I didn’t expect to see his face pop up on my screen, and it was a glorious surprise. His delivery of, “Holy shit! Bo Cruz! Where did this kid come from?” was utterly stupendous.

Winner: Luka Doncic

Who do I want to see more of?

This feels like a trap because if I could put Dirk and Luka in every single movie going forward, I would. Can you name a movie that wouldn’t be better with Dirk and Luka in it? I can’t.

But sadly, I have to make a choice, and I’m going with Luka.

We’ve seen more of Dirk (he’s actually in “Hustle” for a brief moment as well), but we’re yet to see Luka really tap into his Hollywood persona. After he delivered his line in “Hustle,” I was clamoring for more.

Luka, if you’re reading this, which I’m sure you are, please (PLEASE) do more movies.

Winner: Luka Doncic

Who acted better?

This category is likely going to decide the winner. It’s worth the most points because the whole point of this is to compare two NBA players and their respective acting chops.

Neither one of these guys is Al Pacino. They’re better, in my humble opinion — both worthy of Academy Awards for their magic on the screen.

But I gotta go with Dirk here. Luka shows up in “Hustle” by way of a phone screen, and that’s just easier to do. In “Like Mike,” Dirk does some real, in-person acting. It’s phenomenal work. He had me believing he actually wanted a 13-year-old’s autograph.

Winner: Dirk Nowitzki

Twitter poll results

Finally, I had to feel the pulse of the nation, so we made a Twitter poll asking all of the MFFL’s and hoops fans out there what they thought. We got nearly 300 votes, and here are the results:

The nation has spoken. Need I say more?

Winner: Dirk Nowitzki

Final verdict

For those who weren’t doing the math as they were reading, the final score reads this:

  • Dirk Nowitzki: 50 points
  • Luka Doncic: 10 points

Sorry, Luka. You just got handed a Phoenix Suns Game 7 type of loss. It’s not all your fault, though. Going up against a juggernaut like Dirk Nowitzki in “Like Mike” is almost completely unfair. It’s like trying to beat the Chicago Bulls in the ‘90s. It just wasn’t going to happen.

Before I wrap up, I want to thank the Twitter voters for getting this right and not making me write a blasphemous article. I truly appreciate that. I also want to thank Dirk for giving me a thespian performance I’ll tell my grandkids about.

Dirk Nowitzki in “Like Mike,” you own the best Mavs movie cameo. Congratulations. I’m guessing it means more than the 2011 title.